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Some 500 fewer dealership employees than last year attended the 44th Annual National RV Trade Show last week at the Kentucky Exposition Center (KEC) in Louisville, Ky., although overall attendance was flat.
Dealership attendance, according to the sponsoring Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), decreased 6% to 4,898 people, while overall attendance – including exhibitors and the media – was down by less than 1% to 13,604.
Helping to make up the difference were representatives of accessory stores, campgrounds and warehouse distributors.
“The numbers were down a little bit,” said RVIA President Richard Coon. “But the booths I visited all said about the same thing. They were pleasantly surprised that there was pretty good activity, and some people told me that it was substantially better than they expected it to be.”
This year was the final year that the show will be disrupted by a multi-year, $52 million remodeling project at the KEC by the Kentucky State Fair Board.
Show space was sold out as 82 manufacturers and 254 suppliers occupied nearly 750,000 square feet of booth space. But some 176,000 square feet was taken out of play this year with the KEC’s East Wing being remodeled.
Those space limitations impacted an array of exhibitors, including those who had to cut the number of units they displayed.
“I didn’t ever hear one complaint during the show (about less display space), although I heard plenty of complaining before the show started,” Coon said. “The important thing is that all went well. We didn’t have any problems.”
Sid Johnson, director of marketing for Jayco Inc., Middlebury, Ind., was pleasantly surprised by dealer response at Louisville.
“We probably went in with lower expectations than normal just because we have been hearing about other companies in the industry cutting back on production,” he said. “From the time the show opened on Tuesday morning until late Wednesday afternoon, it was very, very busy.”
Jeff Tryka, director of investor relations at Coachmen Industries Inc., Elkhart, Ind., said the show “probably went a little better than we expected.”
However, Roger Martin, vice president of sales and marketing at Winnebago Industries, Forest City, Iowa, rated the show “pretty average.”
“I can’t say it was remarkably better or worse than Louisville shows we’ve had in the past,” Martin said.